15 Spectacularly Written Historical Fiction Novels
Historical fiction lets readers get the best of both world: the emotional immediacy of novels plus the intellectual engagement of nonfiction. Unfortunately, some writers get too caught up in nitpicking details and don't bother to write elegant sentences or plot engaging, structurally interesting stories. Each author on this list defies that stereotype. Once you've made your way through these picks, you can always take a look at some of the best recent historical fiction, or check out some modern authors who are breaking new ground. When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue to support our research. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
Well Written Historical Fiction
- At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
- Coal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman
- Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini
- Dunstan by Conn Iggulden
- The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
- The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
- The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
- The Absolutist by John Boyne
- As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
- Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
- The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
- A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
- The Confessions of a Young Nero by Margaret George
- The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn
- A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor
5 Tips For Writing Historical Fiction
While history books give us a glimpse of past centuries, historical fiction novels give us ideas about what it must have been like to live in a time when the world was still struggling for peace and working hard for technological advancements. These 15 historical fiction novels, presented in no particular order, are not just beautifully written. They also give color to the black and white pictures of history in our imaginations, with narrations about love, friendships, family, and society.
#1: "At the Water's Edge" by Sara Gruen. The author who wrote "Water for Elephants" created another thought-provoking story with this 2015 novel. It revolves around Maddie Hyde, the heroine of the book. The excitement comes from reading about the characters' hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Ultimately, the book is not just about finding this creature, but also about facing monsters in real life.
#2: "Coal River" by Ellen Marie Wiseman. Things were going well for Emma, the daughter of two actors from New York. Little did she know that she would end up in a coal mine after her parents' death. This is a story that will open readers' minds to the history of America by narrating the tragic lives of "breaker boys." The author didn't just write a fiction novel, but a book that unveils some little known realities of the past.
The author didn't just write a fiction novel, but a book that unveils some little known realities of the past.
#3: "Enchantress of Numbers" by Jennifer Chiaverini. Ada Lovelace lived a short life, but her contributions to computer science were significant. There are history books that can tell you about her brilliant mind. This novel shares more of Ada's character and struggles as the only legitimate child of the famous poet Lord Byron. This book lets readers see Ada as not just a genius, but also as a woman who lived in the Victorian era.
#4: "Dunstan" by Conn Iggulden. One of the greatest men of the Church of England is Dunstan of Glastonbury, and he is the main character in this story. The book contains a lot of historical facts, as well as creative tragedies that will intrigue those interested in this legendary saint.
#5: "The Paying Guests" by Sarah Waters. Set in the forties, the plot explores themes of love and sexuality. This is mixed with courtroom drama that will make readers hold on to their seat. By mixing these heavy elements with thrilling action, Waters creates an extraordinary narrative.
By mixing these heavy elements with thrilling action, Waters creates an extraordinary narrative.
#6: "The Sandcastle Girls" by Chris Bohjalian tackles the Armenian genocide that happened during World War II. The author focuses on plot and storytelling, while making sure there are historical facts to learn from while reading. It is hard not to be moved by this book, while simultaneously having your eyes opened to a tragedy that haunts a lot of people.
#7: "The Girls In The Picture" by Melanie Benjamin. Fans of old Hollywood should find this one especially interesting. Two film pioneers, Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, are the protagonists. The author doesn't fail to give readers a book that is full of lessons about life. It also tackles issues that women had to face in the early 20th century.
#8: "The Absolutist" by John Boyne. This is the story of two soldiers, Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft, who met during World War One. The real wounds that they caused to each other and the line between camaraderie and something more are at the center of the story. There's also just enough mystery behind the characters to keep readers guessing.
There's also just enough mystery behind the characters to keep readers guessing.
#9: "As Bright as Heaven" by Susan Meissner. The Bright family faces tragedy when the Spanish Flu starts to claim lives in 1918. Even though this book has a lot of dire parts, Meissner crafted a novel that gives the readers lessons about family, positivity, and being hopeful no matter what the situation.
#10: "Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate. This story involves one of the most scandalous organizations in America in the 20th century. At the center was an orphanage that stole poor people's children and sold them to rich families. The main character is a work of fiction. But she was inspired by the people and families affected by this cruel practice. The combination of history, mystery, and romance makes even something this dark a pleasure to read.
#11: "The Lady of the Rivers" by Philippa Gregory. The English monarchy has always been fascinating, and Gregory's readers know just how enjoyable it is to read her tales about them. "The Lady of the Rivers" was the ninth book published in The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels series, but serves as the first chronologically. It focuses on the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg. A book about the strength of women in this era that is dominated by men is definitely an interesting read.
The English monarchy has always been fascinating, and Gregory's readers know just how enjoyable it is to read her tales about them.
#12: "A Certain Age" by Beatriz Williams. The roaring twenties was not just a prosperous time for Western society, but also a period of cultural change. Williams compares the old and new through the main characters of the book. She also turns a love story into a mystery. Readers who enjoy twists and turns tend to find it delightful.
#13: "The Confessions of Young Nero" by Margaret George. A lot of people know how vicious ancient Roman politics were. George crafted a story that lets readers see the other side of a person who is believed by some to be one of the most misunderstood figures in history.
#14: "The Serpent and the Pearl" by Kate Quinn. A family that has a shocking background is given a story from a different point of view. The author's research on the Borgias shows through. Plus, she is able to create fictional characters that are human and imperfect which her readers love.
The author's research on the Borgias shows through.
#15: "A Memory of Violets" by Hazel Gaynor. The story is about how the life of a young girl was changed after meeting an orphan named Florrie. Gaynor wrote this novel about sisterhood and the poverty that haunted London's flower girls. Bookworms who are in need of a novel that is light but heart-melting will enjoy Tilly and Florrie's story.